- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Mexico Guide (PDF)
The birthplace of talented and famous artists such as Frida Kahlo, and home to gorgeous landscapes, breathtaking beaches, many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and ancient ruins, Mexico is a truly unique country. The media often focuses on two extreme perceptions of Mexico: the intense and violent drug crime or the sun-soaked, luxurious lifestyle. Moving to Mexico involves much more than just that, and residents may face culture shock, problems with finding employment or difficulties doing business, but will soon realise that the country, with its blend of Spanish and indigenous cultures, has beautiful attributes and positive aspects too.
Here is a list of our pros and cons of moving to Mexico.
Lifestyle and culture in Mexico
+ PRO: Warm and welcoming people
There’s no need to worry about making local friends in Mexico – the people are as warm as the climate and foreigners are treated well. Mexicans will go out of their way to help, including in bureaucratic settings if expats are polite and courteous in turn.
+ PRO: Rich in cultural celebrations and cuisine
Mexican culture thrives in modern society, from the striking architecture of countless cathedrals to cultural celebrations such as the colourful and interesting Día de los Muertos traditions with vibrant outfits and the iconic calavera (skulls). Expats can enjoy street food not only during these celebrations, but also on a regular basis, relishing genuine Mexican flavours and indulging in traditional cocktails made with authentic tequila.
+ PRO: Fascinating history
One of the main reasons that tourists come to Mexico, apart from the weather and beautiful natural landscapes is its rich history. Visitors and expats can explore Aztec and Mayan ruins and learn remarkable – and sometime shocking – stories of indigenous groups and Spanish colonisation.
- CON: Language barriers complicate many aspects of life
The most commonly spoken language in Mexico is Spanish and, much to the surprise of many new arrivals, there are over 60 other languages spoken by minority groups. Expats who don’t speak Spanish may have difficulties when dealing with the authorities, doing business or securing accommodation in Mexico. Even Spanish speakers may need to pick up local slang and expressions. That said, learning Spanish can be seen as an opportunity to gain new knowledge and better orientate oneself in one's new home.
- CON: Patience is fundamental
Time is but a social construct, and the concept of time is likely to differ from that in expat’s home country. Few things stick to a set time and the pace of life in Mexico is slow, which can be frustrating for both foreigners and local Mexicans. It’s important to stay calm and not lose one’s patience.
Visas and paperwork in Mexico
+ PRO: Relaxed visa policy
Mexico’s borders are open visa-free to foreigners from Canada, the USA, many South American countries, the UK and Schengen Area countries, as well as Japan, for stays up to 180 days. For longer stays and other foreign nationals, visa and work permit applications are simple to process.
- CON: Bureaucracy and paperwork can get overwhelming
Much to the dismay of expats and Mexican citizens, administrative processes may take time and paperwork can be confusing. New arrivals often need to check that their qualifications are recognised and certified in Mexico depending on their field of work, while things like opening a bank account often requires paperwork done in Spanish. Fortunately, loopholes to dodge paperwork can sometimes be found, but keeping records of transactions is still important.
Transport and driving in Mexico
+ PRO: Efficient and diverse transport networks
When travelling around the country and within cities and towns, there are many options. Some cities are walkable, while expats may prefer a car in others. Taxis and ride-hailing apps are available and easy to use, while first-class buses are comfortable and affordable. Major cities also have metro systems.
- CON: Driving restrictions in urban areas
Major urban areas such as Mexico City have limitations and regulations for vehicles to reduce traffic and pollution, so getting around by car may not always be the most convenient option. We encourage expats to check the rules for their specific area and see if it applies to their vehicle. While it may be annoying, this is an opportunity to improve urban spaces and encourage healthier transport alternatives.
See and do in Mexico
+ PRO: Diverse and stunning natural environments
What isn’t there to see and do in Mexico? Being such a large country, spanning several time zones, Mexico affords diverse landscapes and jaw-dropping scenery. The adventurous can go hiking and explore the flora and fauna in rainforests, while others can relax in natural hot springs or along the warm coastline.
- CON: Be vigilant of safety matters when going out and about
Whatever expats get up to, whether it's tourist and leisure activities, taking a drive out of town, enjoying a celebration or going about one’s day, they must be aware of safety matters. Many residents find that reality doesn’t match the media scares of violence in Mexico, but it’s wise to stay updated on crime matters and health hazards.
Cost of living in Mexico
+ PRO: Foreign incomes can stretch further in Mexico
Expats from high-income countries such as the US and Canada are in luck and find that the cost of living in Mexico can afford them a relatively luxurious lifestyle.
- CON: Not everything is cheap
Don’t move to Mexico believing that everything is automatically cheaper – especially for those from developing countries. Of course, typical expat and tourist areas are on the rise and upmarket beach-side condos aren't in everyone’s budget. Credit cards also charge high-interest rates and big purchases need to be planned accordingly.
Healthcare in Mexico
+ PRO: Private healthcare is affordable and public healthcare is universal
Residents and tourists in Mexico can affordably access medical care, a drawcard that lures many Americans. Insurance packages can also be found at great prices. Residents working in Mexico and citizens are entitled to public healthcare, and private hospitals offer first-rate facilities and services.
- CON: Quality of public healthcare is not standard
While there are excellent hospitals and clinics, a visit to a public hospital does not guarantee high standards as quality varies considerably between states. High standards are also difficult to find in rural areas and insurance should cover expenses for potential repatriation. Expats’ embassies in Mexico are likely to provide info on the best hospitals to go to.
Accommodation in Mexico
+ PRO: Accommodation options to suit any budget
Those looking for luxurious living can often find villas, haciendas and stylish condos modernised to meet their needs. Expats on a budget can also find a comfortable home or apartment or flat-sharing situation with ease, using online portals, networking, social media or driving around prospective neighbourhoods.
- CON: Securing a lease may seem complicated
Although landlords don’t always ask for proof of employment or reference letters, tenants may need a guarantor who is a Mexican citizen. This can be close to impossible for new arrivals with no connections in Mexico. Tenants should also ensure they understand the lease and have a copy of it in Spanish.
Shipping and removals to Mexico
+ PRO: Expats can import household goods duty free
While furnished accommodation options and furniture and appliances are readily available, expats who want a taste of home can import personal items duty free. Mexican Customs allows this only once within the first six months of arrival but it can save money on paying hefty taxes.
- CON: Complicated shipping regulations tied to visas
Bringing household possessions into Mexico comes with rules and regulations. Arrivals with temporary residence will have to export their items when they leave, contributing to additional admin and stress. Expats who brave this will likely employ the help of a customs broker or a relocation company.
Education and schools in Mexico
+ PRO: Excellent private, bilingual and international schools
Expats moving with children will discover a wide range of schooling options to suit their needs, language and preferred education system. International and private schools include a mix of American, British, Mexican and Japanese curricula and languages, which helps children settle into their new lives.
+ PRO: Inclusive education
Mexico is working towards inclusive education to ensure that students with disabilities get the help they need in regular classroom settings. Specialised professionals such as speech therapists and psychologists collaborate with teachers to help students. Parents concerned about special needs education in Mexico can contact their school directly to enquire about the kind of support available.
- CON: Public schools are not up to scratch
Although public education in Mexico, from primary up to some tertiary institutions, is free, many don’t meet standards required by expats, with underpaid teachers, insufficient resources and high drop-out rates. While public school seems like a great opportunity, many families may be disappointed.
Are you an expat living in Mexico?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Mexico. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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